This discussion has been coming to a slow boil on the back burner of my mind for some time now, but it’s finally been moved to the front. For anyone who cares to dig your backissues out of the longbox to better follow along, you have until tomorrow to do so. In the meantime, here’s Marv Wolfman’s introductory editorial from issue #1 to get the discussion rolling.
OLD FUNNY ANIMALS by Marv Wolfman
It’s been four years! four years since I tried selling the basic concept of SKULL THE SLAYER to someone… anyone. And now, at long last, for better or worse (though I naturally think the better) — it’s here! And you wanna know something? I think it was worth the wait. For, in that time, my ideas matured, some concepts grew, some changed, all hopefully improved. The basics are still there — the thrust of what I wanted remains. Only some of the secondary aspects of the series have been changed — and all for the better.
As I said, it began four years ago when I was working as an assistant editor for Marvel’s Declining Competition. I had the idea for a then very different sort of magazine. The concept was simply: thrust an entire mid-town Manhattan office building into a prehistoric setting — into a jungle inhabited by dinosaurs, and observe how us sedentary modern-types would cope on a totally alien, yet familiar, world.
But the setting was to be more than simply a dinosaur comic. There would be a secondary plotline… one dealing with caveman, and, shall we give some of the secret away—? Other time periods, the Bermuda Triangle, and more! In effect, four years past, the intention was for Skull to become a cosmic dinosaur series. No joke!
The idea was turned down for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the concept of a series which progressed from issue to issue was frowned upon. No continued plotlines, much less stories. Secondly, the concept was not understood, perhaps because it broke away from a rigid thinking that went on there at the time. Anyway, it was no go.
I left my editorial job a year or so later and moved on to another company where I became script editor. But before I had time to suggest Skull as a feature, Marvel called and I answered.
Rascally Roy Thomas made me an editorial offer I couldn’t refuse, and so I brought myself and Skull with me. But duties kept me from suggesting the idea until March of 1974. Roy thought about Skull for a few moments and said that he, too, was a dinosaur buff, that he always wanted to do a similar type strip, and that if Stan said fine, we’d go with it. Stan did.
Roy and I began working out the details. He felt that apartment house idea was not feasible. It would spread the focus of our plots too thin, and, to be a commercially acceptable book, it would not have one solid star. After all, we wanted the idea of the book — if we wanted to do it month after month we’d have to sell it. We may not always like it, but sales are what keep us in the business, and past sales have always indicated that one strong star makes for a winner. Besides, by that time my thinking had somewhat changed and I was seeing major problems with the series if it had gone totally my way. So we decided on a four person group, with Skull as the star.
Roy asked for names, and my first thought was, oddly enough, Skull. There was a problem; we still were publishing KULL, and the one letter difference was not a good idea. For the next two months we battered names around, and, in the meantime, I worked to get ahead on TOMB OF DRACULA and CRAZY. After a while we got sick of waiting for a name and Roy said, just use the tagline “Slayer of Men!” and send out a plot to the artist. We’ll come up with a name later.
Then there was a mixture of good and bad news: Kull was cancelled, which meant we could use Skull. I grabbed for the chance, and when the pencils came in from the Philippines, the first thing I had lettered was the title: SKULL, THE SLAYER (after all, he wasn’t going around slaying me — just dinosaurs, and “Skull, slayer of Dinosaurs” doesn’t exactly trip easily off the tongue!).
When the final art came in, I finally let out me sigh. Steve Gan had done a fantastic job — and more… exactly what I had wanted. We quickly photostated it, and I took it home to color (yes, color).
Anyway, at long last, SKULL THE SLAYER is coming out… and, in the typical way of mixed up Marvel — so is the new KULL AND THE BARBARIANS, so we still have a Kull and a Skul, as well as a Kree and a Skrull, and Crom knows what else!
Ah, well, here it is — four years later, but, I hope, worth the wait.
See you in two months, and in the meantime, don’t accept and wooden pterodactyls.